You don’t have to have a Master’s degree in clinical psychology to know that people are stressed: Work stress, home stress, and life stress. It’s a lot, and your employees are by no means immune.

Stress in the workplace, though, rarely occurs in isolation. Instead, it’s almost always accompanied by procrastination, and the two often combine to form a destructive cycle in which stress breeds procrastination which in turn breeds more stress. And on and on we go.

It is possible, however, to disrupt the procrastination-stress cycle before it even begins. The key is effective project management.

The Connection Between Stress, Productivity, and Procrastination

If you’ve ever experienced stress (and who hasn’t?!), you’re probably all too familiar with its detrimental impact on your productivity. Studies show, for example, that those under significant stress, no matter its source, will experience a decline in their perceived physical and mental well-being.

This decline in physical and mental wellness results in a loss of energy and focus, both of which are essential to workplace productivity. When you feel you don’t have the stamina or the mental clarity to do your work effectively, you’re likely putting off the work for as long as possible.

While this may feel like a quick fix in the short term, as deadlines approach, stress levels only increase, adding to the temptation to procrastinate still more–until, at last, there’s no more time. When that happens, there’s often a minimal choice but to either miss the deadline or sprint to finish.

The Cascade from Sprint to Burnout

While a sprint to the finish may be productive, this is only true when rushing to complete your work is the exception rather than the rule. Unfortunately, the more you stress, procrastinate, and sprint, the more likely you will burn out entirely. There’s only so much stress the mind and body can handle before they give up and break down.

Employees must learn to prioritize work tasks, manage time effectively, and collaborate productively with their team. This includes the ability to define and schedule job duties to ensure steady and timely progression toward the end goal.

Why Do Project Managers Experience Stress?

Not only will your employees experience stress and face the temptation to procrastinate in fulfilling their project obligations. Project managers can experience as much stress as their subordinates, if not more.

The key to breaking the cycle is much the same for your team. As a project manager, it is essential to learn to establish priorities and create realistic timelines for project delivery and the achievement of critical milestones in the project lifecycle.

Tangible Project Management Strategies for Breaking the Cycle

As prolific as workplace stress may be and seemingly intractable as the procrastination-stress cycle often appears, it is possible to stop the madness. As a project manager, your role in this effort is paramount.

To disrupt the cascade, you will need to focus on defining tasks, outlining key milestones, and establishing reasonable timelines for project completion in incremental stages.

Additionally, it’s also imperative that you establish and implement the desired workflow. This will also require you to ensure that you have strong communication channels. This way, every team member will clearly understand their responsibilities and timelines regarding project completion and know whom to report to and how often for status updates, questions, and concerns.

Supporting workflow to mitigate stress and prevent procrastination will often mean optimizing the tech your team is using. With the right project management software, scheduling, status updating, collaboration, and communication can be a breeze.

This is particularly true if you work with a geographically distributed team or a hybrid or fully-remote workforce. Indeed, good productivity and communication tools are essential for cohesion and collaboration in diverse groups.

The Takeaway

There’s no getting around it: workplace stress is inevitable, and it’s a function of the importance of the work, your employees, and your client’s investment in the work. That does not mean that work stress must also inevitably trigger the destructive procrastination-stress cycle. Instead, as a project manager, you have significant power to stop the cycle before it begins. The key is establishing priorities, defining project duties, and formulating incremental milestones and reasonable timelines. In addition, eliminating the stress-procrastination cycle also means using superior technology. The right project management software can help you take your scheduling, communication, and oversight capabilities to the next level and, in the process, transform potentially destructive stress into productive stress both for you and your team.

Author Bio : Miles Olive is an independent writer with a background in business and passion for tech, psychology, and sustainability. When he is not writing, he is most likely mountain biking, traveling, or kicking back with a cup of tea. 

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